From the carnival at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, this weekend is all about a global celebration of life observed in over 50 countries, often in the form of overindulgence and debauchery. But few know about the religious roots of these festivals, which is intended to be celebrations lasting for days or hours before the austere period of Lent begins.
Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is a period of repentance that symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert to begin his period of ministry. It ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.
Here are how a few carnivals are celebrated across the world.
The carnival celebration in the Spanish city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the most glamorous in the country with ornate and over-the-top costumes, attracting visitors and tourists from all over the world to the island city that is closer to Africa than Europe.
The Carnaval de Barranquilla in Colombia is the second largest carnival in the world. Its slogan is "those who live it are those who enjoy it." The festival originated at the meeting of European, African, and indigenous peoples and their cultures converged dating back to the 1800s.
The celebration includes the Battle of Flowers parade, opening the carnival Saturday with elaborate floats, decadent costumes, and loud music and dancing.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the biggest carnival in the world with more than two million people per day on the streets for the celebration that goes all the way back to the 1700s.
The big event includes revelers, massive floats, and schools participating in the festival starting Saturday and going through Ash Wednesday, with some events lasting an entire week. Balls and street parades take place for locals to participate.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
The weekend before Fat Tuesday, the eve of Lent, the streets New Orleans turn into a large spectacle of music, dance, and revelry with the slogan "Let the good times roll." The celebration dates all the way back to the 1700s and started to be embraced more broadly than just those with Catholic or French heritage.
Held on the French Riviera, the carnival in Nice, France is thought to be the site of the original carnival celebration, dating back to the 1200s.
Every year a special theme is chosen and there is a parade that includes masquerades, satirical floats and competitions.
On the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the quiet city of Oruro, Bolivia comes to life with folk dances, extravagant costumes, crafts, lively music, and up to 20 hours of continuous partying.
The celebration draws crowds of up to 400,000 people, merging Catholic and ancient pagan expressions.
The carnival of Patras, Greece includes balls, parades, a hidden treasure hunt, and children's carnival, that concludes with a ritual burning of the carnival king at the St. Nikolaos Street pier in the harbor of Patras.
The Notting Hill Carnival takes place for two days in August but it has just as much of the revelry as the Fat Tuesday celebrations.
The Martinique Carnival on the French Caribbean island was first celebrated by French Catholics in the 1700s. Today, the festival includes a merge of local culture and the European style carnivals as people of all ages dress in traditional costumes to compete for king and queen and to be carried in the annual parade.
The Venice, Italy Carnival is world-famous for its elaborate masks. The festival became official during the Renaissance, was banished in the 1700s and re-emerged in 1979, and today attracts up to 3 million tourists just for the celebration.
The Mediterranean city of Sitges, Spain holds a carnival with several different themed parades, including the Debauchery Parade and the Extermination Parade.
Introduced by French colonists, the festival of Lent includes a dance to the soundtrack of Calypso music, which mocked the French and includes colorful costumes, including stick-fighting and limbo competitions.